London: England kept their nerves under the brilliant and motivating captaincy of Eoin Morgan and choked South Africa in the opening match of the ICC World Cup 2019 at the historic Oval ground yesterday.
South Africa won the toss and managed to restrict the England run flow, but their batsmen weren’t good enough to take up the challenge to reach a target of 312 after England, through four half centuries, starting with opener Jason Roy (54), Joe Root (51), Morgan (57) and Ben Stokes (89) gave England a total of 311 for 8.
South Africa were restricted to 207 runs in 39.5 overs as England recorded a 104-run win. South Africa had only two half centuries from Quinton De Kock (68) and Rassie van der Dussen (50). England’s Barbados born pacer Jofra Archer took three crucial wickets for 27 runs.
England was looking for a total of over 350 runs. But the South African bowlers ensured that the England batsmen do not explode.
Stokes, who top scored with 89, could not go for the big shots and get his century. Though it was leg spinner Imran Tahir, who picked the first wicket of the tournament off the second ball of the first over, and also ended Morgan’s brilliant knock, and ran around the stadium celebrating his wickets, it was Lungi Ngidi who ensured that England did not reach the 350-run mark. He picked up three wickets for 66 with Kagiso Rabada taking 2 for 66.
One of the main reasons why England could not post the total they wanted to was due to the wicket being a bit sticky and not holding up when the seamers were in action. England actually returned for an uncomfortable lunch with even the ardent England fans wondering whether 311 was a safe total.
During the break when Root was asked about the score, he said: “We would have liked more. You always want more when you are setting. It wasn’t your typical one-day wicket here in England. It was a bit sticky.”
But Root was still hopeful, considering his team’s bowling attack, that the total was good enough. “Plenty there for our attack. I feel we are in a pretty good position. We obviously have got to bowl well. It is always nice to get a score in excess of 300 to defend,” he added.
When Morgan and Stokes were in full flow, 350 looked achievable. Ngidi’s cutters were a treat to watch and turned dangerous as the ball did not come on to the bat properly. The R and R (Roy and Root) partnership was brilliant, but they then threw away their wickets in quick succession.
So England wanted some quick wickets to put pressure on the South Africans from the start. Opener Hashim Amla had to retire hurt with a bouncer that hit the grill from Jofra Archer in the fourth over. Archer also went on to remove Aiden Markram forcing him to edge to Root for 11. Worse followed for South Africa when their skipper Faf du Plessis too departed top- edging a pull to Moeen Ali at fine leg for 5 in the tenth over.
Opener Quinton De Kock, fresh from his top form in the Indian Premier League, began to stroke beautifully and together with Rassie van der Dussen, began to slowly dominate the England attack. In the 21st over De Kock hit a six off Liam Plunkett while Der Dussen hit another six off Ali over long-off. Twenty-eight runs were scored off overs no. 21 and 22, and just when it looked like South Africa was taking full charge, De Kock pulled Plunkett into the hands of Root at deep backward square leg for 68. This ended a partnership of 85 runs off 81 balls.
When Ali quickly removed JP Duminy for just eight runs, South Africa needed to score another 170 runs in the next 24 overs. Then when next man Dwaine Pretorius got run out for 1, England took a firm grip on the match. Amla, who returned to bat, fell for 13.
J Roy c du Plessis b Phehlukwayo 54
J Bairstow c de Kock b Imran Tahir 0
J Root c Duminy b Rabada 51
E Morgan c Markram b Imran Tahir 57
B Stokes c Amla b Ngidi 89
J Buttler b Ngidi 18
M Ali c du Plessis b Ngidi 3
C Woakes c du Plessis b Rabada 13
L Plunkett not out 9
JC Archer not out 7
Extras (lb 2, w 8) 10
Total: 311-8 (50 Overs)
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Bairstow), 2-107 (Roy), 3-111 (Root), 4-217 (Morgan), 5-247 (Buttler), 6-260 (Ali), 7-285 (Woakes), 8-300 (Stokes)
Bowling: Tahir 10-0-61-2, Ngidi 10-0-66-3, Rabada 10-0-66-2, Pretorius 7-0-42-0, Phehlukwayo 8-0-44-1, Duminy 2-0-14-0, Markram 3-0-16-0
Q de Kock c Root b Plunkett 68
H Amla c Buttler b Plunkett 13
A Markram c Root b Archer 11
F du Plessis c Ali b Archer 5
H van der Dussen c Ali b Archer 50
J Duminy c Stokes b Ali 8
D Pretorius run out 1
A Phehlukwayo c Stokes b Rashid 24
K Rabada c Plunkett b Stokes 11
L Ngidi not out 6
Imran Tahir c Root b Stokes 0
Extras (b 4, lb 5, w 1) 10
Total: 207 al out (39.5 Overs)
Fall of wickets: 1-36 (Markram), 2-44 (Du Plessis), 3-129 (De Kock), 4-142 (Duminy), 5-144 (Pretorius), 6-167 (Van der Dussen), 7-180 (Phehlukwayo), 8-193 (Amla), 9-207 (Rabada), 10-207 (Tahir)
Bowling: Woakes 5-0-24-0, Archer 7-1-27-3, Rashid 8-0-35-1, Ali 10-0-63-1, Plunkett 7-0-37-2, Stokes 2.5-0-12-2